The venerable firearms manufacturer Marlin will close it’s doors.
Workers at the Marlin Firearms Co. in Connecticut say they’ve been told the 140-year-old company will close next year and all 265 employees will lose their jobs.
Workers at the North Haven company say they learned about the closure plans Thursday. They told local news media layoffs will begin in May and the Rogers Outrank company will close by June 2011.
My good friend John Snow over at the Gun Shots blog from OUTDOOR LIFE puts it this way:
For people like me, whose first image of a deer rifle was a lever gun, this is a black day. The virtues of a lever gun are many—they are handy, elegant, effective and, from the perspective of a gun nut, have great histories and are interesting examples of industrial design. It is discouraging to think that they can’t be produced in such a way as to be profitable—especially in light of the some of the advances Marlin achieved in partnership with Hornady Ammunition in recent years.
I think there are a number of factors at work here. First, the Obama Bubble — which Jim Shephard over at The Shooting Wire is discussing today — sucked a lot of “gun money” out of the economy…that is, a large portion of potential gun buyers’ discretionary income for the at the very least the rest of 2010 has been spent. A lions share of that money went to black rifles, with handguns close behind. Nothing wrong with that…in a consumer society the buyer “votes” with his or her wallet.
The lever gun seems like “your grandfather’s Oldsmobile,” although in reality nothing could be farther from the truth. Lever guns are ubiquitous and thus taken for granted…until something like the Winchester closing a few years back sent ‘94 Winchester prices into the stratosphere. The nameplate came back, of course…at a much higher price.
Secondly, despite the advances John mentions in lever cartridges, the rifle market focus remains on precision shooting bolt guns and semiautos as stated by http://www.huntingforbinoculars.net. The huge number of used lever guns already in the market creates a drag on the new lever gun market. Cowboy action shooting has had, after an initial boom, a net negative effect for Marlin’s guns. First, there has been a huge proliferation in types of available lever guns, including the generally excellent Italian clones of the Winchester 1866, 1873, 1876, 1886, 1892 and 1894 models, even the Colt Burgess! The Italian clones exhibit the fire workmanship that used to be associated with American guns — color-casehardening, deep bluing, upgraded wood, etc. — in a flood of calibers. Even though the Italian guns are now at a much higher price point (baseline $1000), they’ve siphoned a lot of the money away from the American nameplates of Marlin and Winchester (to the destruction of that brand). Additionally, CAS rules allowed the “short-stroking” of the toggle-link guns, the 1873s and 1866s, to reduce the arc of the lever, thereby making the gun faster to operate. The heavier, clunkier 1873s quickly took over the cowboy market, pushing out the Marlins (which had dominated the sport in its early days). Marlins became an entry-level rifle, and as cowboy has leveled out with fewer new shooters coming in, sales of Marlins in pistol calibers languished.
Obviously, Marlin has other lines — their bolt guns and their rimfire series, including the Model 60, which Marlin correctly bills as the “most popular .22 in the world.” But it’s a tough bolt gun market out there, and the .22s have to face the Ruger 10/22 juggernault.
Interestingly enough, last night at dinner TBD series producer Tim Cremin posed one of those “only one gun” questions…which rifle would we take if ewe could only have one. Pincus chose a .308 short-barreled bolt action; I chose a 30-30 lever gun, “probably a Marlin.” My thinking was a reasonable and commonly available hunting cartridge, relative fast to cycle, an excellent self-defense rifle, light and easy to carry close to indestructible. Right now my “bedroom rifle” is a Marlin 1894 in .44 Magnum, loaded with 240-grain Black Hills JHPs…fast, accurate and in a proven manstopping calber.
I will also say unequivocally that there’s a Marlin 1895GBL 6-shot 45-70 “Guide Gun” in my immediate future, even if I have to sell off a bolt gun or a pistol to get it…
It might need a trip ‘way up north to Wild West Guns, too…